Monday, September 16, 2013


I thought I knew my son.  I thought I could predict how he would handle almost any situation - when he would dive in (rarely) and when he would sit back (often).

I was wrong.  He proved that this weekend.

Let me set the stage:  Finn and I joined Reid and one of his friends, as well as their dads, for a father son campout at a YMCA camp over on the peninsula Saturday night.  As a lifelong Boy Scout, let me just say, the YMCA camps are WAY nicer than Boy Scout camps.  Beyond the obvious - no basket weaving merit badge test to stress out over - their facilities were nicer, the food was better, and above all, instead of the aforementioned basket weaving and other fun activities such as leather working and Citizenship in the Community, Camp Colman had activities called Life & Death.  And Giant Swing.

We never checked out Life & Death, but Giant Swing is exactly what it sounds like.  A giant swing.  Attached to an enormous cedar tree deep in the woods and suspended on the same kind of cables that catch airplanes on aircraft carriers.

You need to sign up for Giant Swing at check in, so we signed up for the 6:15 pm session.  After a full day of running around like madmen, I was half expecting Finn and his buddies to bail on the giant swing after dinner, but everyone was talking it up and we were game, so we headed over.  The instructors spend the first ten minutes of your time there convincing you how safe Giant Swing is, which should tell you all you need to know about Giant Swing.   This is where it gets interesting.  When they asked who wanted to swing, Finn's hand was the first one in the air.  When they asked who wanted to go first, Finn's was the only hand still in the air.

I would not have predicted this.

In a semi-state of awe, I watched as they strapped him into a harness, put a helmet on his head and walked him down to the platform, from which they would raise him 30+ feet in the air.

Before you go any further, watch this video of the Camp Colman Giant Swing.  This is a must.

Now you see why I was so impressed.  Given that Finn doesn't even like to walk into Jena's house without me holding his hand, I was expecting him to bail when they told him I couldn't go down to the platform.  I was preparing my consolation hug for him, since he was sure to back out at that point when I realized that he was already down at the platform and climbing the ladder.  He never even looked at me, much less asked me to come down there.

I'm now starting to freak out a bit.  I ask them if I can go down closer to take some pictures.  But really I just wanted to be close enough that when I heard him tell the guide that he was too scared, I could rush right in and pick him up.  But he didn't say that.  The guide told him to jump back off the ladder to test his harness.  No way he would do that.  But he did it.  Then he said he was uncomfortable, so I breathed easy as order was restored to the universe and I prepared to get him.

Nope.  The guide adjusted his junk and Finn gave the thumbs up.  The ascent began.  Wow.

At roughly 20 feet, they asked Finn if he wanted to go any higher.  "HIGHER!" he yelled.  He yelled it again when they asked in another 5 feet.  At about 30 feet they made the mistake of asking again and up he went another 5 feet.  He went as high as they could crank him.  I almost threw up.

They gave the command to pull the rip cord, where he would unleash himself, and that was the moment I was sure he'd ask to be let down.  I was so sure that when he pulled the cord, dropped straight down ten feet and then shot about 50 feet over the forest, I forgot to take a picture.  I was trying too hard not to pee my pants.

After he had about two swings in, they told me I could grab a helmet and run down to take pictures at the bottom.  I quickly did so, certain that I'd hear him crying and begging to be let down as the swing slowed down.  Instead I heard this:


After we unbuckled him, and after I regained my composure, I gave him the biggest high-five my weak arms could muster.  As we climbed the hill back up to the group, the entire hill erupted in cheers of "FINN!  FINN!  FINN!"

It was amazing.  He was smiling ear to ear and begging to go again.  The grown-ups who had previously volunteered to go next, on the other hand, were looking a little queasy.  I couldn't blame them.  After promising him that we'd come back in the morning, he ran off to play with his friends.

It's worth noting that I never rode the swing.  I was lost after that performance.  Stunned.  And so it was that later, as the kids got even more tired and started in with the inevitable hitting & pushing, I was in a bit of quandary.

After all, who am I to yell at the maniac that conquered the Giant Swing while I stood idly by fretting with a dry mouth?

I'm that maniac's dad, that's who.  And I couldn't be prouder.

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